What is Speech Pathology?
What does a Speech Pathologist do?
A speech pathologist is a health professional who studies, diagnoses and treats people with communication disorders, such as difficulties with speech, language, fluency and voice. They also help people with swallowing difficulties learn to eat and drink safely.
What is a communication disorder?
Communication involves speaking, hearing, listening, understanding and using social skills, reading, writing and using voice. Someone with a communication disorder has difficulty with one or more of the above skills, for a variety of reasons. They may have a developmental delay, a learning disability, or an intellectual disability. They may have had a stroke, brain injuries, or have cerebral palsy, dementia or hearing loss, or any number of other problems that can affect speech and language. There also may be no known reason for why they are delayed or disordered in their communication skills.
Assistance through all walks of life
Speech pathologists work with people from all walks of life, across the entire lifespan. A baby may need speech pathology assistance if they are having difficulty with feeding and swallowing.
A child may need treatment to help develop their receptive (understanding of) language and/or expressive (use of) language. They may also need therapy to help them learn how to say certain sounds that are missing from their phonemic
repertoire; how to successfully decode if they are having difficulties with reading and writing; to help with voice fluency issues such as stuttering; or voice problems such as having a hoarse, harsh or breathy voice. They may also have difficulty with social communication skills and may need intervention from a speech pathologist to help teach this.
Older children may need specific language therapy to help teach them how to write specific texts and answer questions correctly, especially relating to higher language skills such as inferencing, predicting, understanding homophones and using grammar correctly. Answering complex questions and essay writing take up a large chunk of high school tasks, and children with difficulties understanding what is required or knowing how to structure their responses to form a cohesive text is vital for success.
An adult may visit a speech pathologist for accent modification, or to help them understand and find the right words to use after a stroke or traumatic brain injury. They may need voice therapy (especially if they rely on their voice professionally, such as teachers, actors and singers), or therapy to reduce stuttering.
Speech pathologists also work with Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), devices that help people who find it difficult to speak or write to communicate more easily. Examples of AAC are signing and gestures, as well as picture charts, books and special computers or devices.
Speech pathologists also work with the deaf community to help with family support, signing and other assistive devices, speech therapy following cochlear implants and a multitude of other areas.
Did you know...
Information courtesy of Speech Pathology Australia